Finding the Wine Arena of Argentina

There are many things in which I am confident: my ability to finish a 500-page book in a day, the skill with which I can apply a liquid lipstick, and my capability of making an awesome cheese ball for holiday celebrations. Still, one thing about which I constantly question myself is wine.


I started exploring the world of wine soon after my twenty-first birthday. Two years in, and I still feel like Bambi among my wiser woodland neighbors. Despite feeling adrift at times, I have accepted that my knowledge of wine will never be complete and aim to tackle each bottle, book, and article as a new way in which to expand that knowledge. So when I was invited down to Rural Society in D.C. for a tasting of Ruca Malen wine, I made the easy decision to say yes; however, I was also nervous about how to hold my own against people I considered more legit than me. Like Rudy Kurniawan, I often feel like a fraud. However, a little bit of fear was an easy thing to overcome when it meant trying some new wines and learning a little bit about what Argentina has to offer.

Founded in 1998 by two Frenchmen, Ruca Malen isn’t just a company that strives to make great wine, it’s one that is passionate about the way wine is meant to be enjoyed with food and friends. The master behind these wines is Pablo Cueno, who joined Ruca Malen in 2006. Meeting him at Rural Society added depth to the whole event. His dedication to the winery was clear as he spoke about the desire to create wine that was meant for food, bottles of quality, and his hope to highlight the way the terroir of Argentina can yield great grapes. You can try a phenomenal wine and read a fact sheet to appreciate a winery, but when you talk to the winemaker and get a feel for what the winery is all about, that relationship between consumer and wine becomes so much deeper.


Luckily, once you get a feel for Ruca Malen and go out to find yourself a bottle, they aren’t asking you to drop hundreds of dollars on them. Each wine was a standout that offered something to discover. The 2015 Yauquen Torrontés was the bottle an acid lover could pick up with confidence when looking for something bright, vibrant, and youthful. Everyone at the table was immediately in love, and it was the perfect way to kick off an incredibly humid August day. It was also one of the most affordable quality bottles I’ve experienced with an SRP of $12.99. Also from their Yaunquen line was the 2014 Yaunquen Malbec, also around $12.99. It wasn’t bright like the white, but it was still invigorating, with an earthy characteristic to it. I even preferred it to their 2014 Ruca Malen Reserva Malbec, which was more elegant, but also fruitier than the first. I preferred the dry, spicy qualities of the Yaunquen Malbec, but the Reserva was still enjoyable. If you tend toward the more floral, fruity wines, pick up the Reserva at $18.99, or you could do what I did and try both to see just what magic Ruca Malen can do with the same type of grape.


While Malbec is well known and even Torrontés has appeared on more restaurant wine lists lately, this winery also has some more unusual options. The star of the tasting was the 2011 Kinien de Don Raul. As this was poured, I could feel the joy around the table rise. Limited edition, unique, and intense, this was the kind of wine any wine lover seeks out. At the tasting, I found dark berries, vanilla, and a dry start with a juicy finish. A blend of 64% Malbec, 15% Petit Verdot, 11% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 10% Syrah, this bottle will set you back roughly $75, but as a special occasion bottle, you couldn’t choose much better. If you’re the kind of person who buys wines for a special occasion, you might also be the kind of person who would enjoy the NV Ruca Malen  Brut Sparkling Wine. Comprised of 75% Pinot Noir and 25% Chardonnay, this wine had the tiniest bubbles that came to life with each sip. Dry with a yeasty quality that paired well with caramelly sweets, this was a bottle that I could have finished off on my own with no shame. Any sparkling wine lover should add this one to their queue and get ready to enjoy.


Though we tried five stellar wines, the sixth I would happily hand over the contents of my wallet for. Petit Verdot is my vice. Some people have sex, drugs, and rock and roll; I have this baby. I love the complexity and drool over the black fruits and violets that this intense wine promises. Ruca Malen first planted Petit Verdot in 2006, and while they produce under 40,000 bottles, it was the bottle I could fill a whole wine cellar with. Their 2013 Ruca Malen Reserva Petit Verdot is a steal at $18.99 SRP, especially since it’s one you could explore for hours due to the ripe red and black fruit and touch of rustic flavor in the glass. It was like digging into a bowl of mixed berries in a woodland oasis. Even though any of these bottles are worth more than their SRP, this was the one.


This tasting wasn’t just about the wine, although that was certainly why I signed up, it was also about the ways in which wine can pair with food to create a memorable experience. Rural Society’s chef and Chef Lucas from Ruca Malen paired together to create food that would authentically marry well with the wines, and they kind of knocked it out of the park. Not only did each tapa pair well with the wine that Cueno suggested trying, almost all of the food could be enjoyed with any of the bottles. The vinegary morrone montedito with anchovy and creamy goat cheese had lots of fun zing when paired with the 2015 Yauquen Torrontés, but was mellowed out by the woodsier 2014 Yaunquen Malbec. That held true for the savory, herbaceous morcilla, the earthy mushrooms, and almost every other bite we had that day. I didn’t just leave with a newfound appreciation of Argentinian wine, I also left with a desire to explore more Argentinian food.


As the afternoon came to an end and I found myself a little lightheaded from not wanting to waste any stellar wine, I was ready to hop on a plane to Argentina and gain a few pounds courtesy of Ruca Malen. It’s been a month since the tasting, and I miss these wines, and that, for me, is more of a reason to hunt them down again than any comprehensive fact sheet I’ve read.


For those in the D.C. area, you can find these wines at the retailers listed below:

Grand Cata – A Latin Wine Shop – 1550 7th Street NW Washington, DC

Cordial Craft Wine, Beer & Spirits – Union Market 1309 5th Street NE Washington, DC

S & R Wines & Spirits – 1015 18th Street NW Washington, DC

Dean & Deluca – 3276 M Street NW Washington, DC

Cork & Fork DC – 1522 14th Street NW Washington, DC

Paul’s Wine & Spirits – 5205 Wisconsin Avenue NW Washington, DC

These photos are not mine, but taken courtesy of the Ruca Malen Facebook page. I was invited to this tasting for free, but all opinions are my own.

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WineStudio: Hey, Hey, Rosé

It’s humid and hot outside, people are getting together for picnics, and families are spending hours in traffic to sit by a pool. This can all only mean one thing, it’s time for Rosé. I’m guessing this is something everyone knows, but my friends at #WineStudio took it up a notch. PROTOCOL Wine brings people together every month on Twitter to discuss the world of wine and how it impacts us imbibers, so when they decided to tackle Rosé, everything from the age-ability to the Provençal style was covered. While many of my friends just think of this as a fun pink wine to drink once the temperature soars above eighty, it was clear through the discussion and the subsequent tasting that there was a lot more to it than that.


I can’t say that sustainable practices are something I actively seek out when buying a wine, but if I find something I like and it’s produced through sustainable winegrowing, I certainly appreciate it. On top of that, if the wine is made ethically and the SRP is $12, I feel like I’ve found the Chupacabra. So, if your ability to pick up on context clues is any good, you’ll know this first bottle I’m referencing is said Chupacabra. The 2015 Pedroncelli Rosé of Zinfandel was different from the fruity bottles the masses tend to go after. There were notes of raspberry and cranberry, but there was also a distinct quality of peppercorns. It came to life as it warmed, with strawberry flavors rounding out the slightly bitter edge. At $12 a bottle, it was not the life changing Rosé some may want, but it was fantastic for what it was. This might not be a selling point to all of you, but it was perfect for watching trashy TV with my friends while devouring snacks, and since that’s pretty much the activity that my life revolves around, I was all about it.


The final wine of the month was the 2015 Angels & Cowboys Rosé from Sonoma County. While I wanted to paint my entire home in that velvety pink of the Pedroncelli, this bottle fell on the other end of the spectrum by rocking a blush pink color. The color was so pale it reminded me of a piece of clothing that had been left out in the sun, bleached of most color with only a hint of what it was before. Less berry and more citrus like grapefruit to be found in this bottle, it was a lighter style that was a blend of Grenache Rouge, Merlot, Petit Verdot, and Grenache Blanc. These grapes were harvested specifically to become Rosé, and for those looking for something fresh with nice minerality, pick this one up because of bright flavors and the $14.99 SRP.


If one thing was clear at the end of this session it was that these weren’t the typical Rosé you’d find on a hastily put together wine list, they were ones that true lovers should seek out. Affordable selections made by wineries that truly care about making a solid wine, these bottles would appeal to anyone drawn to wineries for their stories, their production methods, or just simply for the great wine they put out. And that pretty much covers all of the basics that drinkers look for, right?

These wines were kindly provided to me by the companies listed above, but all opinions are my own. 

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Foodie Fashion: Bite Beauty

Hello, my name is Jaleh, and I am addicted to lipstick. That might seem like an odd statement to make on a blog devoted to food and wine, but I promise, there is a reason. When I first realized I was a makeup addict, lipstick was my vice. It didn’t take as much time to put on as eyeshadow, and it came in a range of colors that could be swapped out for any outfit or occasion. So, when I started this Foodie Fashion part of my blog, I knew I’d have to find a way to work my love of lip products in, and I found exactly what I needed with Bite Beauty.


Handmade in Canada, I first encountered this brand through a sample from Sephora, and I’ve been hooked ever since. Super pigmented, long-lasting, and non-drying, the sample I tried hit all the most important qualities of a good lipstick. Now, the newest line smells like the juicer in a fancy bar, citrusy with a tendency toward lemon. The scent isn’t the only aspect that reminds me of food, the whole Bite launch is named after one of the most exciting courses, Amuse Bouche. Each color is named after a food, and there is one out there for everyone.


Named after a food that can either be one of the best or worst meals of your life depending on preparation, the first color I tried was Gazpacho. It’s a true cherry red lipstick, the kind of color to put on at a 4th of July celebration. Unlike Taylor Swift, the classic color isn’t in my usual wheelhouse, but the scent and the lasting quality is enough for me to keep it around when I’m rocking a red dress and want a fun pop on my lips. When you do have the time to apply some crazy eyeshadow, or if you’re out somewhere where you don’t want to concern yourself with touching up, Pepper is the color to grab. Now, I will admit when I heard that the color was called Pepper, I was a little confused. When I hear ‘pepper,’ I think green, red, or yellow, not nude. There isn’t anything particularly spicy about this selection either. Still, despite the odd name, the creamy rose color won me over and worked well with my sand-colored skin.


Though I liked the first two lipsticks I tried from the Amuse Bouche line, Beetroot was a total Jaleh color. If you’re not into makeup, you may not relate with the feeling the right color can give you. However, when I put on this rich berry color, I felt like Tinkerbell, spunky and ready to take Captain Hook down.


For those of you out there like me who love both the fast satisfaction of makeup and the deeper one of a nice glass of wine, I wholeheartedly recommend Bite’s wide range of lipstick. Though I covered some more classic shades here, they recently launched Kale and Squid Ink, colors which I’m sure you can guess lend themselves to some more creative looks. Check them out, try them on, and don’t blame me when you have twenty new lipsticks in your home.

I received these lipsticks for free, but all opinions are my own. 

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WineStudio: Same Grape Taking Different Shapes

If you’ve been reading my recent posts, you probably know what to expect from this one. If not, I’ve got one word for you: Albariño. This is a grape that bursts to life in Galicia, an area that was always described to me as hosting the more offbeat Spaniards. Focusing on the wine, this #WineStudio session highlighted everything from the winemaking females creating a name for themselves to the diversity of the grape itself. If you only drink Chardonnay or crave something tropical, you can find the right bottle for you; if you tend toward something with more edge, you can also find a bottle to meet your standards.


Weeks had passed since the first Albariño night occurred, but I was still chugging away…both literally and figuratively. Despite the outline for the program, I ended up tasting the selections for week seven after some those from week nine. One such bottle was the 2014 La Caña, a weighty wine that still retained its acidic edge. It was like a cool Aunt, a little older with some depth, but still something simply fun. On the palate, there were flavors of pear with a citrusy, fruit stand quality to it. Still, the fruitiness was rounded out by the acid. This was the type of wine one could either spend hours with or finish quickly during a get together with friends. Overall, it was a bottle worth seeking out, offering the best of both worlds when it comes to this grape.


Also from week seven was the 2015 Etiqueta Ambar Granbazán, the only wine I received that was rocking a Riesling-style bottle. Dry with a nice fresh citrus finish, this was a dependable option that didn’t necessarily leave a lasting impression. There was nothing wrong with it, but much like a night spent in streaming Buffy the Vampire Slayer for the millionth time, there wasn’t anything that made it imprint on my soul. It was good, though it blurred in with the other bottles a little too easily for me. The SRP on this bottle fell in the more expensive range compared to its brothers and sisters, but at $22 a pop, it was still a worthwhile venture.


Catching up with week nine, I sampled the 2015 Edicion Especial Adegas Valmiñor. This wine knew what it was, and that resulted in something with medium acid, crisp fruit, and a salty quality to balance out the more tropical aspects of the bottle. Now, I don’t know what immediately comes to your mind when you think about pairings, but the Italian cold cut from Mastallone’s in Baltimore was amazing and easily one of the best pairings of the whole event. The vinegar and the hots on the sandwich sung when followed by a sip of this wine the color of a shallow golden lake. It was a great way to end this longer #WineStudio session, and I left knowing more about Albariño, Galicia, and the food that could highlight this diverse wine.


And just like that, it was over. When cases were arriving at my house week after week, I felt like I’d be drinking Albariño once a week until I turned thirty. As I’m currently rocking a summertime cold and unable to enjoy anything besides strong cups of tea and Theraflu, I wouldn’t mind that feeling again. While I might be a little drained of Albariño right now, give me a couple more weeks and I’m sure I’ll be scouring my local wine shop for another bottle. I’ll just be searching for a young, lively, crisp one, instead of those geriatric ones that didn’t speak to me. For those who crave something in-depth and fun, these PROTOCOL Wine Studio Twitter Tuesdays are usually both and should be attended by any curious wine lovers out there. So, join me next Tuesday at 9 pm to learn all about Umbria. It’s the hot topic of the month, though if your proclivities lean more toward the Spanish set, I’m sure it won’t be long before we visit there again, too.

These wines were kindly provided to me by the companies listed above, but all opinions are my own. 

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WineStudio: Let’s Go! Albariño!

There are three groups of people in the world: wine drinkers, wine snobs, and moms who like Chardonnay. In my mind, they all fall into a Venn diagram; there are those who fall exclusively in one category, while there are others who are snobs while also being moms who like Chardonnay. I’m probably somewhere in between the first two. I like to pretend I’m just a down home wine drinker all the time, and then someone goes and whips out a jumbo bottle of Yellowtail at a party. So, I reluctantly admit that I am a snob too, and with that comes a desire to learn about all the wine out there in the world. It’s not just about Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Grigio, there’s more to discover.


For those of you who didn’t guess from the title, this is the latest blog in a long series about Albariño, the white wine that dominates Rias Baixas. Brought to my attention by PROTOCOL Wine Studio, this DO was established in 1988, thrives with mineral-rich soils, and is often called Green Spain due to its similarities to Ireland. I am already planning a trip in my mind filled with rolling hills, seafood, and white wine constantly flowing.


Still, after eight bottles of Albariño, I was starting to get fatigued. There were tons of intriguing qualities I discovered over the first weeks of the program, but halfway through I was dying for something red and peppery meant for a rare steak. After one night of excessive red wine drinking, and a few others devoted to Riesling and beer, I was ready to devote some time to Albariño again with the 2015 Laxas. Shimmery sunshine yellow, hints of tropics, and crisp enough to make me feel like I should be on the beach, this one had the acid of a younger Albariño with the tropical notes of older bottles. Instead, I was sitting in bed, rewatching One Tree Hill, and eating a creamy Hungarian soup. Remind me who said your 20s are the best? Much like the TV show I was watching, there weren’t many layers to be found yet the irresistible flavor was there. It was a touch too tropical to become a favorite of mine, and the synthetic cork was tough to work with, though at the end of the day, I’d pick this one up to enjoy with others again.


While the Laxas reminded me of hanging out in Bali, the 2014 Pazo Señorans was more similar to something you’d want to sip in the summer while blasting music and getting ready for a night out. There were muted florals, apple, and a lip smacking dose of acid to be found in this bottle, qualities for which I’d sell a kidney. It also was one of the best pairings I had throughout the weeks. As a sushi lover, I try a different bottle at least once a month with my favorite fish. The acid here cut right through the fatty salmon and brightened the uni on my plate. Compared to the previous bottles, the $25 SRP makes it one of the pricier Albariño options. Still, if you can splurge for some great sushi, you can splurge for this bottle as well.


I believe I’ve thoroughly established myself as an ageist when it comes to Albariño- the younger the better, even though I always thought myself above that. With lots of layers, little acid, and a mellowness that comes with age, the 2013 Baladiña was not meant for me. For someone searching for a bottle that seems round, broad, or mild, go for it. If you read these long-winded reviews and tend to agree with me, go for the bottle I mentioned above. Without much to say about this one, I’ll leave you with my sister’s positive words: “I don’t know what it tastes like, but it’s good.”


The 2014 Vionta was much more my jam, with a refreshing and powerful presence in the glass. This was a lively bottle with a creamy yellow color and the flavor of tart green apples. Paired with a fried catfish burrito, it didn’t do too well with the spice, but did sing when accompanied with a hefty dollop of fatty guacamole. This was no delicate wine that needed hours spent mulling over the wine glass; it stood firmly and knew what it was, and I think that spoke to my 20-something self that consistently has no idea what I’ll be doing a month from now. However, I think those of you out there who are a bit more settled would still dig this.


I’m sure it seems like I’ve been yammering on about Albariño for too long now, but after next week’s post I’ll be moving on to something else, and I’m sure you’ll feel the same way I felt when this session was over- you were really just starting to get to know this grape. The next Twitter session of #WineStudio will be commencing in August, so if you fit into any of the aforementioned groups of people, join me and my wine mates as we delve into the glass and straddle the line between wine drinker and wine snob.

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Recipe: Crab Puffs

For all my tattoos, Doctor Who marathons, and general desire to make my own decisions about my life, the one thing I probably would have succeed at in the 1950’s would have been cooking. While the chef craze is at all time high and it seems like home cooks are capable of making Thanksgiving dinners every night, I am much more comfortable with homemade cookies and meals I can make with as little stove time as possible. Luckily, in addition to a crush on the Fonz and owning every Shirley Temple movie, another byproduct of growing up with my grandmother was a host of recipes from the 50’s through the 70’s, decades not generally lauded for their culinary feats. In other words, perfect for me. The crab puff recipe below is one of many handwritten ones in her big green binder. I believe this one came from a neighbor, but it’s a family favorite for holidays and big parties when we want to focus on each other more than cooking. Make the whole batch now and keep them on hand for any last minute guests or late night munchies. It’s not a recipe that will get me into any Wolfgang Puck cookbooks, but I think you’ll like it all the same.

057 066 130 116

Crab Puffs

Yield: 96 crab puffs

12 Thomas English muffins

1 lb. crab meat

2 sticks butter

2 jars Kraft Old English spread (5 oz. each)

4 tbsp. mayo

1 tsp. Old Bay

1/4 tsp. garlic salt

juice of 1/2 lemon

dash of Worcestershire

additional Old Bay to sprinkle on

1. Mix all ingredients  except muffins together, fold in crab meat last.

2. Place English muffin halves on baking sheet, evenly spread the mixture on each half. Cut the muffins into quarters. Sprinkle with additional Old Bay.

3. Place crab puffs into freeze for at least two hours, or overnight. If saving for future usage, put puffs into Ziploc and keep stored in freezer.

4. When ready to enjoy, preheat oven to 350 Fahrenheit. Spray baking sheet with Pam and place puffs evenly on sheet. Bake from frozen state for 15-17 minutes, or until golden brown. Allow 5 minutes for crab puffs to cool. Serve. Eat up.


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WineStudio: Don’t Say No to Albariño

For nine weeks, my life was Spanish wine. I’m sure I made time in there for other beverages while out with friends, but looking back, April and May seem like one big blur of Albariño. A couple of weeks ago, I covered the first few wines we tried during this intensive #WineStudio session and now I’m back to bug you all once again. More wines from Rías Baixas, more variety. This second post is still just the beginning, so buckle up, keep all hands inside the vehicle, and get ready for a wave of words about white wine.


One of many in the complex lineup was the 2014 Veiga Naum, a simple wine that wasn’t one of my favorites. My wishy washy opinion fell in the minority compared to the rest of the favorable ones; however, this bottle promised a lot with fragrant aromas tinged with wet stone, yet felt flabby. For me, it was like one of Han van Meegeren’s fake Vermeer’s; a lot of people saw something there, but it wasn’t quite right. This white wasn’t displeasing, but lacked depth. When my friend and I reached the end of the bottle, I felt like there were others out there I’d rather spend $15 on. If you’re hooked on Albariño and need to try them all, go ahead and pick this one up, but for the casual drinker, there are others I would champion first.


The next bottle, the 2014 Xion, was much better than a wine I’d compare to one of the biggest art forgeries of the 20th century. With a bouquet of white florals and flavors of tropical fruits kissed with acid, this one captured everything Albariño has to offer. Pop this one in the fridge for a bit, but let it warm up to discover all its depths, and drink happily knowing that the SRP is only $13.86. To make it even better, pair it with food like Parmesan risotto and grilled chicken. You can thank me later.


For something lighter and better for the summer, the 2014 Condes de Albarei was the type of wine you’d bring to a BYO specializing in seafood. Crisp, clean, and very drinkable, the pale gold wine paired well with the crab puffs I made for the Preakness. The best thing about this bottle was that it held up incredibly well past day one. It’s a great ‘just because’ choice, and perfect for both wine lovers and simple wine drinkers. As an introduction to this grape, this is a solid bottle to discover, so try and get your hands on one sooner rather than later!


Breaking from this trend of 2014 Albariño, the last one I tried in April was the 2015 Bodegas Altos de Torona. This was the first blend of the session, and in addition to Albariño, Caiño and Bureiro found their way into this bottle. Though I tended to prefer the younger, jazzier wines of the first weeks, this youthful white and I were not friends. I should have known it wouldn’t be for me when I thought the color resembled that of the banana, the only enemy I have in the world of fruit. Instead of highlighting the grape in a new way, this was a heavyset, overwhelming wine that was like being locked in a humid room chock full of tropical fruits. To make matters worse, the cork was awkward and was tough to finagle out. It lacked the character of the Albariños I dove into before this one, and it’s the only bottle from this #WineStudio from which I would encourage others to steer clear.


Discovering #WineStudio and connecting with others through PROTOCOL Wine Studio was one of the better things to happen to me as a young adult curious about the world of wine, especially since I’m surrounded by friends who champion whiskey shots and parents who are margarita enthusiasts. It’s given me another way to connect with wine lovers and ask dumb questions without feeling like a fool. The best way to learn about wine is to drink it and discover what you love, but the second best way to learn about wine is to talk about it with others. #WineStudio offers the best of both worlds, and when it starts back up in August, join along at 9pm Baltimore time and explore alongside me.

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